College Freshmen Remember 9-11

Sep 8, 2011

Many of the freshmen who stepped on the UK campus this fall were in elementary school at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For many Americans, it seems hard to forget the events of 9/11; the place they were, the people they were with, and even what they were doing that day. But what about young people who were mere children when it happened? Two University of Kentucky freshmen took the opportunity to share their thoughts about September 11th.

Mandie Smith, a pre-pharmacy major at UK, was in the third grade at a local private school where she says various religions were openly discussed. Smith explained that she had already known about the Taliban and Islam even before the planes hit. She admits there was significant criticism of the Taliban at the time. 

9/11 was the source of considerable tension in her family. 

"I had an uncle by marriage that's from Iran so after that happened it made me kind of look at him a little differently." 

Marketing major, Deshaun Smith (no relation) has a strong military background and is attending UK on an ROTC scholarship. His mother was active in the Army during 9/11 and saw first-hand the effects of the tragedy. He admits to once harboring resentment toward the Middle East because of the attacks. Smith says he remembers teachers tearfully coming into his third grade classroom, wheeling in a TV set from the A.V. room. 

"I never had that happen before. I've never seen an adult figure break down like that. When I got home it was the same with my mom because she was in the military, so she was going through emotional stuff." 

Five years later, his mother was deployed overseas leaving him to be the adult figure for his two younger sisters while his father worked. Through that difficult time, Smith says this experience strengthened his relationship with his family.

No matter what generation you are a part of, there's always something to learn and take away from the 9/11 tragedy. Deshaun Smith says that as he got older and had a better understanding of the events of that day, he began to be more thankful. 

"It taught me to cherish living in the United States because I saw all the privileges I have and to cherish life too because the people in those buildings had no idea." 

9/11 also taught him to be open-minded about different cultures and to accept responsibility. 

"I accepted the fact that we had a part in it too. War is all over the world so you can't be biased against one culture. It taught me to be conscientious."